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You are hereHome > Digital Camera Reviews > Konica Minolta DiMAGE A2

Minolta Digital Cameras

   


Konica Minolta DiMAGE A2 Review

Review Date: May 24, 2004

Category: Advanced Amateur - Prosumer

Konica Minolta DiMAGE A2 

IMAGE QUALITY

The Konica Minolta DiMAGE A2 is a digital camera targeted to advanced amateur photographers. It has 8 megapixel resolution on a 16.7 mm (2/3 in.) CCD image sensor and a novel Anti-Shake Technology that stabilizes the CCD image sensor instead of the lens.

The Konica Minolta APO GT lens is a 28-200 mm (35mm format equivalent) f/2.8-3.5, 7x optical zoom. Unlike most digital cameras that have an electronically driven zoom, Konica Minolta has equipped the DiMAGE A2 with a mechanically linked manual zoom that works really, really well. Those who come from a 35mm film SLR background will feel right at home.

We find the overall image quality of the Konica Minolta DiMAGE A2 to be excellent.

7x Optical Zoom
Wide-angle 7.2mm
(28mm, 35mm equivalent)
Wide-angle 8.5mm
(33mm, 35mm equivalent)
Telephoto 50.8mm
(200mm, 35mm equivalent)

There are only a few digital cameras that provide a 28mm wide-angle coverage, with most stopping at the 35mm focal length. In the above pictures, we show the coverage for 28mm, and then delienate the areas covered by 33mm and 200mm. Sometimes, that little extra coverage a 28mm lens provides can make a noticeable difference in landscape, real estate and interior design photography.

The 7x optical zoom reach also adds very much to the desirabilty of this digital camera. Unlike the other 8MP digital cameras, the Minolta GT lens stops down to F11 (whereas the others stops at F8). Depth of field preview is available by turning the Function Dial to Custom and pressing the Function button.

According to Konica Minolta, the DiMAGE A2's Anti-Shake Technology allows hand held shots at shutter speeds as slow as 1/25 sec. Usually the minimum shutter speed you can safely use for camera shake-free pictures is the reciprocal of the focal length. So, at the maximum telephoto focal length of 200mm, the rule of thumb is to use a shutter speed of at least 1/200 sec. to negate camera shake. The A2's Anti Shake Technology allows the use of a shutter speed about 2 to 3 settings slower, depending on the focal length used and on how steady your hands are.

Another professional feature of the A2 that is directly related to image quality is the ability to record images in RAW and TIFF file formats. It takes a long 35 sec. (from the time the red light goes on to when it goes off) to save a RAW image to memory card (about 50 sec. in TIFF file format). Fortunately, the A2 has an internal buffer and I am able to take 3 pictures in a row (either one after the other after a slight pause or using Continuous Shooting Mode at 1.8fps) before the camera freezes and starts writing to memory card. You don't have to wait for all the RAW images to finish writing; you can shoot the next picture after about 9 sec., and then after about every 15-17 sec.

There are two RAW modes: RAW and RAW+JPEG (where the image is saved both in RAW file format as well as in JPEG in the size you select). In Continuous advance mode (1.8fps), RAW can be used. In UHS (Ultra High Speed) continuous advance (7fps), none of the RAW file formats can be used. In RAW+JPEG file format, it takes about 35 sec. between shots.

It takes about 20 sec. to transfer a RAW image from the camera to my PC, and about 25 sec, for a RAW+JPEG image(s). Each RAW image is 3264x2448 pixels, so you definitely need a large memory card. The camera indicates space for 20 RAW (or 15 RAW+JPEG Extra Fine, or 10 TIFF) images on a 256MB CF card.

[The RAW file format records the image as captured by the camera's CCD without further processing, and allows you to precisely adjust white balance, contrast, sharpness and saturation in an image editing software without any loss of quality.]

Wide-Angle Macro vs. Telephoto Macro
Canon PowerShot Pro1 Super Macro (3 cm / 1.2 in.) Canon PowerShot Pro1 Super Macro (3 cm / 1.2 in.)
Wide-Angle Macro (21 cm / 8.3 in.) Telephoto Macro (13 cm / 5.1 in.)

The Macro Mode on the DiMAGE A2 is fixed at the two extreme focal lengths. At the wide-angle 28mm focal length, the closest distance you can get to your subject is 21 cm (8.3 in.); at the max. telephoto 200mm focal length, the closest distance is 13 cm (5.1 in.), and you can move the zoom slightly from 42.7mm to 50.8 mm.

Lest you mistakenly think this is too far to get good detail, the above two pictures should dispel any doubts. It is not the distance from your subject, but the area covered (283x213mm at wide-angle, and 52x39mm at telephoto), that matters. In fact, there is an advantage in not having to stick the lens right up to your subject: you don't scare it off (assuming it's alive), and you don't cast a shadow on it.

Auto White Balance Indoors
AWB WB = Tungsten

As the above two pictures show, the auto white balance tends toward the warm colours indoors under tungsten light. Under mixed light conditions (fluorescent + natural light), it does very well (see the CA picture below). As expected, AWB works flawlessly in natural light. The A2 allows you to set a Custom White Balance with the press of a dedicated button.

ISO Comparisons

The 100% crops above (area delimited by the white square) demonstrate the noise at the available ISO Speeds of 64, 100, 200, 400 and 800. At ISO 64, noise is under control though slightly visible in the images when viewed at original size. At ISO 100 and upward, noise becomes quite visible.

Chromatic Aberrations

You have to look hard to find any fault with the image quality of the Minolta GT lens in everyday shots. We found extremely minimal CA at the corner delimited by the red square at top left (reproduced at 100% crop at bottom right). In everyday shots, CA is very hard to find. [Note: In the Minolta DiMAGE A2 Photo Gallery, there is an indoors shot of a Sushi Bar; the neon sign is blue/purple, so don't go looking for evidence of CA/purple fringing there ;o).]

Long Shutter Speed
50.7mm, Manual, 15 sec., F11, ISO 64
Tungsten WB, (Telephoto) Macro, 10 sec. Self-Timer, Tripod Used

The A2 allows the use of a long shutter speed of up to 30 sec., therefore allowing night photography. Generally, with CCD image sensors, noise usually becomes more prominent at slow shutter speeds. The A2 has special noise reduction algorithms that automatically kicks in at shutter speeds longer than 1 sec. and you'll notice a slightly longer processing time before the next picture can be taken.

To test this noise reduction algorithm, we decided to take a low-light indoors shot. Let's make it also a Telephoto Macro shot so we can more clearly see any noise present.

At about 13cm (5.1 in.) away from the subject, the camera lens focuses on Bamm-Bamm's eyes. Even though we use a small aperture to maximize depth of field, his nose still comes out blurred. For a cheap DIY backdrop, we use a black fuzzy sweater. Normal tungsten light bulbs from the ceiling are the only source of illumination. We experiment a bit to obtain the optimum exposure, eventually settling on 15 sec. at F11. Even at this long shutter speed, the A2's noise reduction seems to be working great, producing a nice smooth blurring effect of the background.

The last feature we will mention is the histogram. The histogram can be displayed live during Recording Mode. You can set the histogram to display permanently by pressing the info button until the histogram displays. The histogram is invaluable to give an indication of under- and over-exposure (don't rely on the LCD/EVF since the brightness is adjustable and may be misleading).

The pictures in the Minolta DiMAGE A2 Photo Gallery page provide a good sample of what the Minolta DiMAGE A2 is capable of. I have provided samples at 800x600 pixels (compressed to Quality 60/100 in Photoshop Elements).

You can safely assume that most macro shots and slow shutter speed shots required the use of a tripod. Any image that is adjusted for levels in Photoshop has "_adjusted" appended to the file name.

I have defaulted the image size to 800x600 pixels. For those who have their monitor resolution set to 1024x728 pixels, everything should snugly fit and you should not have to scroll to see the whole image. If your monitor is set to 800x600 pixels resolution, start the slide show and then scroll to the right to position the image within your screen width. Then, press F11 (if you are using Internet Explorer) to switch to full screen mode, and the image should fill your screen nicely. Press F11 again at any time to switch your monitor display back to normal mode.

To return to this page from the Photo Gallery, click on the animated graphics of the camera.

Please open and download the original size version only if you need to and only once to your hard drive -- and save me some precious bandwidth. Thanks!

 

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